Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Everything On It

Every Thing On It

Shel Silverstein was a huge favorite of mine when I was in elementary school. I can still remember the poem I chose to memorize in second grade:

If you're a bird/be an early bird/and catch the worm for your breakfast plate/If you're a bird/be an early bird/But if you're a worm/sleep late

Silverstein was a genius at capturing children's humor, interests, thoughts, and worries. Although his poems are often silly, laugh out loud, funny, and occasionally gross, his poems are also occasionally wistful and quite tender.

Every Thing On It, Silverstein's latest posthumous collection (he died in 1999), is no different. These poems were not rejected from previous editions because they were half-finished or because Silverstein wasn't satisfied with them; they simply didn't, in Silverstein's view, fit the flow of the other works. These are not second-best or also-ran poems; they can stand with the best of Where the Sidewalk Ends and his other works.

Silverstein's death makes reading the poems all the more poignant; this sentiment hits you with the first poem, "Years From Now":

Although I cannot see your face/As you flip these poems awhile/Somewhere from some far-off place/I hear you laughing-and I smile

While reading through Every Thing On It, I marked several poems that illustrated Silverstein's trademarks:

*The poignancy of childhood and children growing up ("Growing Down" and "The Dollhouse")

*The one that might make you cry ("The Clock Man")

*The slightly gross humor ("Investigating" and "Rude Rudy Reese")

*The story poem ("A Mouse in This House")

Silverstein fans young and not-so-young will eat this up. If you need a pick-me-up, grab it. You'll be grinning in about five seconds.

NPR ran a good story about Every Thing On It in September.

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